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We shoulda kicked some serious ass last winter. Ullr smiled on us like we were the Chosen One while he farted on almost every other major ski area until some time in mid-January.
But our record number of room nights, our 18 per cent growth yielded dismal profitability for many in the lodging, restaurant and retail trades. The whipsaw effect was notably described by Michael Brisbois, general manager of The Keg restaurant and chair of the Whistler restaurant association. Michael didn't see any records broken at his business. As he put it, "I've got an owner to report to and they go, 'Oh! Record in Whistler and why are your numbers not a record?'"
The same dynamic played out at the MotherCorp, although that may have as much do with accounting legerdemain as anything else. Total revenue at the mountains was up by 9.2 per cent. More people and higher prices saw to that. EBITDA — earnings before all the stuff you can't possibly comprehend — increased by 12.5 per cent. Season passes and Edge Cards were up. Net earnings, before taxes and magic, were up.
Net earnings after taxes and magic — the ones you can spend — were down 33 per cent.
When you step back and start to think about this two things become clearer. It explains why many people hate math and even more hate accounting. And, it provides some insight into why we all feel exhausted. We're all working harder — delivering great service and creating awesome memories for more and more guests — for less. We're in a whirlpool and that direction we are being sucked is down.
So is this just a modified race to the bottom we're running? What are we going to do to change direction and start seeing profitability track these growing numbers?
Well, TW is pinning its hopes on the Art of Summer. They want to convince people Whistler is not just a great place to spend the day, it is a destination. I know there really should be a question mark at the end of that sentence.
To that end, they're targeting biking, golf and events to generate increased overnight visits. Their strategic advertising campaign will emphasize the quality of mountain biking, the affordability of golf and entice people with offers of a free third night if they stay two.
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